U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq Pass 2,500
Tony Snow Dismissively Says "It's a number"
Excerpted from Press Briefing by
White House spokesperson Tony Snow
in the James S. Brady Briefing Room
Q Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?
MR. SNOW: It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something. The President would like the war to be over now. Everybody would like the war to be over now. And the one thing that we saw in Iraq this week is further testimony to the quality of the men and the women who are doing that, and the dedication and determination to try to ensure that the people of Iraq really do live in a free, effective democracy of their own creation and design.
Any President who goes through a time of war feels very deeply the responsibility for sending men and women into harm's way, and feels very deeply the pain that the families feel. And this President is no different. You've seen it many times. You saw it, you saw it when he was in that ballroom, Terry, and you had this crowd of servicemen and women who were cheering loudly for the President, and he got choked up. So it's always a sad benchmark, and one of the things the President has said is that these people will not die in vain.
And part of what happened this very week when the President went to Baghdad, and he sat down with the Prime Minister and he sat down with the cabinet, and he sat down with the President and Vice President, he sat down with the national security team, and he sat down with the leaders of all the major political parties, what he saw now is that after all of this, what you have in Iraq is a freestanding government that has been elected by the Iraqi people. It has a Prime Minister who is going to be there for four years, who is determined to act as a Prime Minister, who is determined to lead, who is setting priorities, and he's somebody we can work with. You have a Minister of Defense who has significant experience and is already working with his colleagues, not only here at the Pentagon, but also General Casey and others in the field. The President understands that those deaths cannot be in vain, and you've got a government now that can help ensure that that is not the case.
Q Was he told about the benchmark, the President?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'm sure he will hear about it.
source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060615-4.html 20jun2006
U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq Pass 2,500
Malaysia Sun 17jun2006
The number of U.S. military personnel deaths in Iraq passed 2,500 Thursday.
It's important to remember that there is a mission, and there is a greater good which sometimes necessitates tremendous sacrifice," said U.S. army Brig Gen Carter Ham.
"Rather than focus on an aggregate number, I think it's more important for us to remember that there are individuals in that aggregate number, to whom we should be very, very grateful, and to their families."
When asked whether the president knew of the benchmark, Press Secretary Tony Snow said, "I don't know. I'm sure he will hear about it."
"It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something. The President would like the war to be over now," he said. "Everybody would like the war to be over now. And the one thing that we saw in Iraq this week is further testimony to the quality of the men and the women who are doing that, and the dedication and determination to try to ensure that the people of Iraq really do live in a free, effective democracy of their own creation and design."
Aside from the fatalities in Iraq another 18,490 troops have been wounded since the March 2003 invasion, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
The financial cost has also spiralled. Since the September 11 2001 attacks, the United States has spent or allocated $438 billion on the "war on terror", with more than 70% having been spent in Iraq.
Snow was asked, "The President has said that he and Republicans have a record to run on. With regard to Iraq, if you look at our recent poll, the public has in fact rendered judgment about that record. They think the war is a mistake. They trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the situation in Iraq, and they don't think things are going to get better. So does the President have to answer for that record?"
Snow responded, "The President will always, people will have to answer for the records when voters render their judgments, of course. But on the other hand, one thing as you look at the poll data, people want to win the war. They do not want the, and the President wants to win the war."
Q: "But is it a matter of unpopularity and people not -- because people don't understand the gravity of the mission, or is it that they have looked at his record of how he has conducted the war and disapproved of how he's done his job?"
SECRETARY SNOW: "I think -- we live in a nation of 300 million people, and there's no single characterization that's going to cover every opinion."
"I think what you have also seen is a little bit of movement because people saw -- for instance, the death of Zarqawi, for a lot people, said, oh, wait a minute. That's an important victory. It's certainly not going to determine everything but it's an important victory."
"I think for a long time, and this is worth pointing out, people's perceptions of the war have been shaped by car bombs and not by the actual efforts of men and women in the field. And David, I know you have gotten emails and everybody in this room has probably gotten emails at one time or another from people who have been in the theater who say, "I don't know what war they're covering, but it's different than the one I'm fighting in."
Q: "Just one more on this, because you keep coming back to what seems to be kind of a facile explanation about car bombs obscuring real successes in Iraq. If that were the case, you wouldn't have had two governments fail, by the President's own admission. Isn't it a bit of a simplification to say that terrorists' car bombs are obscuring the real picture?"
MR. SNOW: "No, I don't. And I don't think it's facile, either -- "
Q "You don't think that's a misrepresentation? After three years, Baghdad can't be secured yet?"
MR. SNOW: "No. The President has said all along -- what you're expecting is facile, which is a snap victory, things easy. It's not easy. This is a country where there have been factional disputes that go back a very long time. And people on the ground know that it's not easy. No, they're not facile at all in their approach to how they fight the war. I would also pose that to the people who are in theater. It's not a facile explanation. It's a true explanation: a car bomb is more vivid than getting an extra hundred kilowatts out of an electrical generation facility."
Q: "Well, since they haven't done that either."
MR. SNOW: "There has been progress in those areas. So, the other thing is -- you talk about three failed governments. It has always been the aim of the United States to create a democratic government. This is a first. This is a first constitutional parliamentary-elected government. And you've heard repeatedly the President say, this is what we're aiming for. So give these guys a chance. They've been in office for two weeks; they've had a Defense and Interior Minister for one week. The President will be judged on this, absolutely right. But he's also -- and he's willing to take that judgment because he's doing what he thinks is right."
Q" "Tony, one of the things that seems to be talked about in Baghdad right now, the Prime Minister is doing this reconciliation process. And it's raised this question of amnesty for people who have attacked U.S. troops."
MR. SNOW: "Yes, it's an important question, I'm glad you asked it. Mowaffak Rubaie, who is the National Security Advisor for Prime Minister Maliki has just been on international TV in the last couple of minutes. And he said that there's no amnesty for anybody who kills Iraqis or Americans. That's the first thing. Because I know there's been a lot of reaction on Capitol Hill."
"The second thing is, when the President had conversations with the Prime Minister and the cabinet about -- there's actually a cabinet portfolio for reconciliation in Iraq. It is very clear that one of the things that Zarqawi and the terrorists wanted to do was to set Iraqis against one another, especially along sectarian lines. And if you're going to have a unity government, they all have to be together."
"And to create national reconciliation is a very complex thing. It's not a single program but it's a bunch of programs. And the President and our government is going to talk with the government of Prime Minister Maliki, but it's up to the Iraqis to figure out the best way to do it. They've had prisoner releases already. There's talk about expanding the political process, encouraging insurgents and militias to lay down their arms and to join civil society."
"So all these things are ongoing. But the other thing to take note of is that none of this stuff is on paper yet. We had a quote that was repeated in some American newspapers today -- the Iraqis need time to develop these plans, and I know it's something that they are keenly interested in doing. I think they have postponed what was a scheduled August meeting on this. They're trying to get all the sides to work together so that reconciliation is something that they can achieve."
Q: "But I just want to be clear -- there will be no amnesty offered to anybody who has been part of an attack on U.S. troops?"
MR. SNOW: "All I can tell you -- again, there's no plan yet. This is the problem. Everybody wants specificity about what was a general quote. Wait until they have a plan. It's a little too early, but what the Iraqi National Security Advisor said -- and I can't go any further than this -- is no amnesty to those who have killed Americans or Iraqis. I can't answer your question about whether that means people who have been involved in activities against American troops --"
Q: "Would you like to reaffirm what you said earlier today, that the U.S. wants no permanent bases in Iraq?"
MR. SNOW: "Well, I think -- let me -- because -- can you define what a permanent base is?"
Q; "No, I can't."
MR. SNOW: "Well, then how can I get a question --"
Q: "Except into infinity -- no, no, no, you're dancing around already."
MR. SNOW: "No, I'm not dancing around. I'm actually trying to get a specific question answered."
Q: "Okay, say flatly, does the United States want bases in Iraq?"
MR. SNOW: "It has bases in Iraq, and the United States will have bases -- look, the United States, Secretary Rice has said -- well, number one, it's premature to talk about how long they're going to be there. Number two, Ambassador Khalilzad has said we have no desire for permanent bases. Number three, when it comes to a permanent base, that is not the call of the United States. As you know, Iraq has a sovereign government. So the issue of --"
Q: "It's about as sovereign as the President being able to go into Iraq and not even tell the President."
MR. SNOW: "Okay, well, obviously, Helen, you're preaching and not asking."
Q: "You said the death of Zarqawi was an important victory. The President always said that the war is more about one person. Why was this such an important victory?
MR. SNOW: "Well, a lot of times in terrorist movements -- and Jerry Bremer made this point in The Wall Street Journal today -- a lot of times in terrorist movements you do have a charismatic figure who leads them. Bin laden -- but the man who has been his operational head, and a man who in recent years has had more blood on his hands than any person on earth was Abu Musbab al-Zarqawi. And to take away somebody who has not only that kind of value in terms of serving as a point of inspiration, I suppose, or a rallying point for terrorists is important, but also this is a guy who had very significant operational responsibilities and capabilities. And it does send a message, too, to those who want to succeed him, which is, do you really want to take on this job? To me number three in al Qaeda is one that has a relatively short life expectancy. I think Zarqawi is now the fifth to have fulfilled that position."
Q: "Osama bin Laden, where is Osama bin Laden -- where he stands now?
MR. SNOW: "I'm sorry, what's that question again? Where we stand on bin Laden?"
MR. SNOW: "We're trying to get him." Let's not reduce the war on terror to the world's most wanted, because it's far broader than that. You have to go after terror cells, but you also have to create the basis where people are going to live in hope. It's not simply taking down Zarqawi or bin Laden. Those are essential elements. But people do rise up and try to take those jobs."
source: http://story.malaysiasun.com/p.x/ct/9/cid/b8de8e630faf3631/id/7279ffaefb4e99db/ 20jun2006